Sunday, October 3, 2010
In the Introductory chapter of his book Disidentifications, Jose Muñoz explains this term and introduces readers to the performance artists who inspired his thinking about it. He begins by introducing reader's to Margo Gomez, a queer performance artist who's work is really personal and about her own relationship to her queer identity as well as her identity as a Cuban/Puerto Rican Latina. It is through her memories, performed on stage that we see "disidentification" take place.
Muñoz describes disidentification as the third way of relating to identity. While folks may opt to identify with a mainstream concept like whiteness or straightness, others may choose to counteridentify by claiming blackness or queerness as their preferred location. These two choices of identifying or counteridentifying create problems. When you identify, you have to throw out all the parts of you that don't fit into the box you are identifying with. Counteridentification seems cool because it works against assimilation, asking folks to be who they are in spite of what the mainstream dictates. But in defining oneself against the mainstream, a power dynamic remains and it can turn into the same old hierarchy just with the previously marginalized folks on top.
Disidentification is a third option that isn't apolitical that allows folks to embrace all parts of who they are, even the parts that don't fit into a narrowly defined box of identity. To return to the example of Gomez, Latina lesbians are unique in that they don't quite fit into the straight box of Latino identity or the white box of queer identity. By living her life she is disidentifying a little bit with each identity category that she inhabits.